Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Check It. Mother (Madeo).

In a bland, dreary field of tall grasses, an older Asian woman appears. She walks closer and closer, in slow, winding steps and then stops. She sways, side-to-side, eyes looking off into nothing in particular. She raises her arms, and they sway too. She's dancing.

And so begins Mother (Madeo), a South Korean drama-thriller that just opened in limited release last Friday. This opening shot is strange and unexpected, in that artsy film sort of way, but sets you right into the offbeat tone of the film (the next scene, not to spoil anything, sets you up for its suspense aspect). As you watch this lady, a simply unbeautiful older lady, begin to move in this uninhibited way, you also can't help but see the pain and loss in her eyes, and so you start to understand what sort of dark world she lives in.

It's a world where she, Hye-ja, is a lowly merchant who lives with and takes care of her adult son, Do-joon, who is mentally incapacitated. Although always bearing a sense of hope in her son, Hye-ja is constantly worried and often overbearing over Do-joon, and things only get worse when he gets accused of a mysterious murder. The film follows Hye-ja as she fights for Do-joon's innocence, searching for the rightful killer and doing only what a mother could for her son.

Despite being a dark suspense thriller, Mother is quite beautifully shot in the way it pays attention to detail and just how it makes you feel--there's a particular cell phone-lit scene that I thought was gorgeous in its tone and composition. The actress who plays Hye-ja is absolutely superb, and makes you realize the void in American film for realistic-looking actors. You'll stay with her character to the very end, feeling every ounce of pain and despair she feels. And it's painful, sure, to watch her story unfold, but one worth the thrill ride.

Mother is playing at the Landmark at 10850 Pico Blvd. in West L.A. or the Sunset Laemmle at 8000 W. Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood.

-- Chau Tu

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